Beware of Christmas Lattes!

You can’t have missed the festive adverts for Christmas latte drinks. With gingerbread lattes, caramelised hot chocolates and festive frappucinos on billboards and buses up and down the country. Take a closer look and it seems that these drinks are packed with more sugar than we should eat in three days!

Action on Sugar analysed the sugar and calorie content of a Christmas latte or hot chocolate drinks on offer in coffee shop chains. They looked at drinks made with regular milk and vegan, or dairy-free alternatives made with oat, almond, soya or coconut milk. 

High sugar

Although most of us realise that these Christmas latte and drinks are likely to be high sugar, and probably not all that good for us, the findings were shocking. Despite recommendations to cut sugar, the sugar content of many of these drinks has actually increased since previous analysis in 2016. 

  • The largest available size drinks surveyed would receive a red traffic light for total sugars (>13.5g/portion) – the exception being Costa’s Gingerbread Lattes (Medio).
  • The hot chocolate with the highest sugar content in the survey is Starbucks Signature Caramel Hot Chocolate with whipped cream, using Oat Milk (Venti). It contains a staggering 23 teaspoons (93.7g) of sugar, and a whopping 758 calories. The same as eating four white chocolate and strawberry muffins! 
  • Caffe Nero’s Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate (Grande) made with skimmed milk contains nearly 15 teaspoons of sugar (59.6g) and 503 calories. An average person would have to do 90 minutes on the cross trainer to work this energy off.
  • Starbucks again ranks the highest amongst the seasonal lattes, with its Gingerbread Latte with Oat Milk bursting with over 14 teaspoons of sugar (56.6g) and 523 calories per portion. The equivalent of eating 17 custard cream biscuits! If the same hot beverage was served with their almond milk instead of their oat milk, this would reduce the sugar content by 4.5 teaspoons of sugar (18g).

If you are heading off down town to do some Christmas shopping this weekend, you are likely to need a refreshment break mid-morning. Here are some common sense ideas for how you can enjoy your coffee treat without going overboard on sugar and calories with a Christmas latte.

Top tips:

  • Choose a smaller portion – instead of going for the grande, massimo, venti (or by any other standards, the extra large) portion. Choose a smaller cup for fewer calories and a lower sugar content. 
  • Hold the whipped cream, sugary syrups and sprinkles! Choose a regular latte, cappuccino, or even better an Americano or filter coffee. 
  • If you are choosing a hot chocolate choose a regular version. Instead of the bells and whistles of the seasonal offerings, with caramel sauce, whipped cream and sugary sprinkles. The average regular sized hot chocolate is likely to have about four or five teaspoons of sugar (still a lot!). Not so bad compared to the 15 teaspoonfuls on some of the versions analysed in this survey though.  
  • Don’t opt for the dairy-free version assuming it is a healthier option. Often coffee shops use the pre-sweetened versions of oat/almond/soya/coconut milk. 
  • If you want to be super healthy, then a green tea would a great choice. Containing some caffeine, it will give you a little energy lift, but thanks to an ingredient called l-theanine, it might help keep you calm too. Happy shopping! 

Remember that rather than a daily December cuppa, these drinks should be consumed occasionally, if at all. To put it into perspective, some of these drinks contain as much sugar as three cans of coke. Is that much sugar really worth an extra notch in your belt?